Martinique is a little bit of French
paradise located in the Caribbean. Nestled in the heart of the
Lesser Antilles between Dominica to the north and St. Lucia,
Martinique lies 1,965 miles from New York and 4,261 miles from
Paris. This modest size island is approximately 425 square miles
- (50 miles long and 22 miles across at its widest point). The
island is similar to New York City in size and has a population
of 400,000. The Martinique is actually considered a Region of
France and the currency is the Euro. The capital city, where
most cruise ships dock, is named Fort-de-France. On Martinique
French, Creole and English is spoken.
Martinique has a rich history. The island was first sighted by Columbus on his initial expedition in 1493, Martinique played host to its first European "tourists" in 1502 when Columbus landed there during his fourth voyage. Dubbed Martinique by Columbus, the island was inhabited by Carib Indians who had driven away the Arawaks who, like themselves, had come to the island from South America. Martinique was claimed by France in 1635 and officially annexed in 1674. France and Britain fought over the island until 1815, when it was restored to France. Slavery was abolished in 1848. In 1946, Martinique became a Department of France and in 1974 a Region of France, its current status.
Martinique is the birthplace of the famed poet, Aimé Césaire, Zouk and Napoleon’s bride, Empress Josephine, Martinique boasts a rich cultural heritage kept alive in the island’s 25 museums.
The island is mountainous and lush in the north with plains in the center and rocky hills framing pristine beach coves in the south. The average temperate is 79 degrees F. The temperature only differs about 5 degrees between summer and winter.
Martinique boasts a whole world of natural wonders, making it one of the Caribbean’s top eco destinations. Two-thirds of Martinique is designated as protected parkland, affording visitors a wide range of nature-themed vacation adventures – hiking the island’s 27 well-marked trails, kayaking, horseback riding, enjoying a 4x4 tour and more.
Martinique offers the best of Parisian fashion, jewelry, perfumes, etc., and local treasures. La Galleria Mall is a top shopping spot, while Rue Victor Hugo is to Martinique as Fifth Avenue is to New York. For your shopping pleasure, U.S. dollars can be converted to euros at banking locations throughout the island. Hours of operation vary, though Fort-de-France banks are generally open 7:30 a.m. to noon and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Bank-operated 24-hour ATM’s can also be found throughout the island.
In order to drive in Martinique, you must have a valid driver license and be at least 21 years of age. Driving is done on the right side of the road. If you choose to take a taxi, Martinique has numerous taxi's with 80% of them being Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
Known as "The Rum Capital of the World" Martinique is home to 15 brands, each produced utilizing a unique rhum agricole method yielding blends comparable to fine cognacs. Martinique rhums are the only rums to carry the exalted Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) designation formerly reserved for the finest wines. Free tasting is available at all of the island’s distilleries.
For world-renowned cuisine, Martinique’s 365+ restaurants feature the best of French and Creole cooking. Seafood abounds, prepared Creole-style with spices, or in a classic French manner with herbs.
Martinique offers Casino Gaming in the Casino de la Batelière Plaza located just north of Fort-de-France and Casino des Trois Ilets, offer slots, blackjack, roulette and more. Patrons must be 18 years old to gamble and the dress code is casual.
There is scuba diving. The best-kept secret in Caribbean diving, Martinique offers abundant marine life, historic shipwrecks and healthy reefs. The highlight is Diamond Rock, an offshore island with a deep undersea cavern.
Golf & Tennis – Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., the 18-hole Golf de l’Impératrice Joséphine in Trois Ilets, is the island’s sole golf course. Tennis is available at the course and at resorts throughout the island.
Family Attractions – From sightseeing trains to the Butterfly Gardens and Mangofil, Martinique has much to offer families. The main attraction is Aqualand, a U.S.-style water park featuring water slides, wave pool, and young kids play area complete with its own pirate ship.
Modern day Martinique is truly "a little bit of France in the Caribbean." It exudes an alluring and distinctly French sensibility in the excellence of its cuisine, the chic sophistication of its fine resorts and hotels, and the sensuality of its language. Yet Martinique has a cachet all its own; an endearing West Indian warmth and friendliness in its personality, a special spice in its music and dance, its local dishes, cultural heritage, and way of life. It is an island with style and so much more. A special place, to be sure, with so much to offer – Martinique c’est magnifique!
Sources: www.martinique.org, Martinique Tourism Organization.
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